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1  Primary Message Board / Primary Board / A New Year Is Here - Message From Susan Whitmore, Erika's Mom, Founder & Pres. on: January 01, 2013, 02:59:04 AM
Hi Everyone.  Susan Whitmore here.

Before Wendell and I head off to sleep, I had to take a moment and reach out to each and every one of you.  I care about you all dearly.  I feel as if I know each one of you either through your postings, the requests you send for a Packet and Hope and what you share in those requests, the emails I receive, and through Facebook.  I read absolutely everything!  I mostly don't have time to reply to postings.  One day I look forward to having an assistant.  Ah, to dream... Right now we depend upon volunteers.  They are so wonderful to us, and the love and support that is generated in this office would really amaze you.

I often pray for guidance and knowledge to come my way that will help you on your journeys.  Often that prayer is answered, and then I get the gift of sharing it with you.  I so wish we were all close together so we could meet, and I could share the knowledge and tools I've learned over the years.  I try to bring it to you through the newsletters and Facebook, but much of it simply needs to be shared in person.  I am hoping to take our three-day workshop on the road this year.  We had planned it for last year, but with the economy still slow, donations were not as forthcoming.  I know it will work out when it is supposed to.  And THEN...here we come!  If you would like us to come to your city and provide a workshop, let me know.  You would simply need to gather the people.  Our griefHaven workshops are unlike anything you've ever done before and includes an enormous variety of information about grief.

We have a new section of griefHaven you might have read about called Friends of griefHaven.  It was started by a group of women and men in the city where we live, Pacific Palisades, CA, who watched Portraits of Hope, read articles in various local newspapers and magazines about griefHaven, and were deeply moved by our work so much so that they decided to align themselves with us and become the Los Angeles-based section that provides fundraising ideas and puts on events, gives us volunteer help when we need it, and uses their incredible connections to get the word out about who we are and what we do. They created their first event in October 2012 when we had a spectacular luncheon with producer/director extraordinaire Roko Belic as our speaker. You MUST get his DVD, Happy. It truly changed the trajectory of my grief, and I use the information from Happy in all of my work. You can order it right on our website.

So much has been happening since Friends of griefHaven had their first meeting.  If you would like to start your own Friends of griefHaven in your area, please contact me personally to discuss how it would work.  I know, when and if you were ready, you would find it creative, interesting, and very meaningful. 

Of course you know that we are making plans to travel to Newtown either the end of January or, hopefully, first part of February.  I will keep you posted on that. We will be there for them now and for the rest of their lives.

If you are planning to donate to griefHaven, don't forget!  Those of you who have received support and hope from us know the difference it makes.  We have SO much more we can do if we have the funds to do so.  Even if you live in another country, it is very easy to donate through PayPal.  We receive donations from all over the world, and remember that every amount is fantastic!  It all adds up.  Just as an example, one free Packet of Hope costs us about $17 to put together and mail, and we send about 150 of them every month.  If someone calls on the phone and needs to talk, that costs $65 for the hour, and we regularly talk to people all over for no charge. Well, the list goes on and on, and we always want you to have everything you could possibly need, as we have lost our children, too, and are right there with you.

Here's to a New Year. Let's embrace life and find what works for us to experience moments of joy and happiness. It's just a heartbeat away. I promise.

Your friend forever,
Susan Whitmore, Erika's Mom
Founder & President
Grief Specialist
2  Primary Message Board / Primary Board / Re: First birthday without my only child on: January 01, 2013, 02:33:21 AM
Kathleen,

Have we sent you a free Packet of Hope?  If not, PLEASE go to the home page of this website and order one.  There is a lot of information in it that will help you.

I am so sorry for the pain.  Erika would have been 42 last June, and it's been 11 years since she died.  There are times I still cannot fathom that I have an entire life without her.  But we are here for you, and, as you know, there is so much love.

By the way, there are a few good books that you might find helpful.  I have read SO many books about the death of a child.  The few that I found most helpful are:  The Worst Loss by Barbara Rosoff; Seven Choices by Dr. Elizabeth Neeld (this is actually not about the death of a child, but it is such a fantastic book on grief that I use it regularly in all of my speaking engagements, and the contents helped me tremendously); To Begin Again by Naomi Levy.  Those are just a few.

Of course, I am sure you have heard a thousand times--the firsts are so difficult. The truth is that the holidays and special days are difficult, period.  Yet, as you create new memories and try different approaches to what you used to do, you will find what works to make those days less painful.  The goal is to find the things you can do to minimize your sadness and sorrow and not create more than you already have.  You will, and all of us will walk with you.

Sending you much love.
Erika's Mom
Susan Whitmore
Founder & President
3  Primary Message Board / Primary Board / Re: Grave Marker Advice Needed on: January 01, 2013, 02:26:58 AM
Hi.  Please read the January-March 2012 Parent Journey newsletter.  We dedicated that newsletter to grave markers and uniquely designed stones.  Harriet Zaretsky's article specifically lists the name of a place where she designed alongside an artist the marker for her son, Dillon Henry.  Dillon was an avid surfer, and her marker is absolutely incredible.  Harriet highly recommends the organization she worked with.  This will especially be great for you if money is not an option.

Please keep me/us posted on how it goes and what you end up with.  It would be really nice if you posted something on our Facebook page, along with the final photo of the marker you design, once it's done.

I hope you and your family have a softer 2013.

Love and hugs,
Susan Whitmore, Erika's Mom
Founder & President
4  Primary Message Board / Primary Board / Re: Deep sadness for loss of children in Newtown tragedy on: January 01, 2013, 02:21:24 AM
Everyone feels what you feel.  It can be such a frustrating experience when you know the pain the parents and others are going through, what the grief journey is, and then wonder what you can possibly do to help.  I go through this almost daily, since griefHaven regularly receives phone calls, emails, and letters asking us to reach out to a specific family or community or even first responders in situations where one child dies or many.  What helps is to either do something, even if it's just a small thing, as you suggested here, like lighting a candle OR knowing that there is an enormous outpouring of love and that those families will not be abandoned and left alone because griefHaven will be there.

We have been gearing up for several years to train other grief specialists besides myself to be able to provide the type of grief counseling unique to us, which is a very different approach than most.  We are now there.  As you know, we are working with some leaders in Newtown to travel there at the end of January or first part of February to provide grief groups, one-on-one counseling, workshops/presentations to help the community understand the death of a child and how to support the families now and as the months and years tick onward, and presentations to specialists.  I have  put together a letter to Rabbi Praver, along with a package of materials and suggestions of what we will do when we arrive and bring with us.  As you know, it is the period "after" all of the world's shock dies down, everyone goes back to their routines, and the families are left standing there wondering, "Now what?"  That is when we want to be there.

Rest assured our collective grief and concern is felt by those who live there.  One thing that helps me at times like this is remembering that I have not only survived the death of my beautiful daughter, Erika Whitmore Godwin, but gone on to create a meaningful, happy, and loving life filled with friends who "get it" and care.  It was not in the least bit easy, and, of course, like the rest of you I miss her terribly and still have my moments where I cry.  But I've gotten here with a lot of trial and error, reading every book I could get my hands on regarding grief, receive education and training about grief, working with the "grieving brain" through studies at UCLA, and trying various grief techniques to figure out what does and doesn't work so I could bring them to you.  I just care so darn much.

Sending you all my love.  Susan Whitmore, Founder & President
5  Primary Message Board / Primary Board / Speaking Engagements in New York and Florida - Checking In With All Of You on: July 10, 2012, 08:14:46 PM
Hi, Everyone.  Well, we are baaaccckkk!!!!  And the griefHaven office is open once again, although nothing really stops when we leave town, because we do everything we do here, but from the road instead.

Just wanted to check in with everyone and let you know my presentations in both New York and Florida were wonderful.  Please check out FaceBook to see some photos.

In Buffalo, New York, Wendell and I arrived two days early so I could check out the presentation room and the set-up, and then we took a day trip to the Canadian side of Niagara Falls. It is beautiful and powerful to behold.

I gave my all-day presentation for the Roswell Cancer Institute in Buffalo, New York on June 9 in front of a room filled with chaplains and other specialists who work regularly with parents whose children have died.  My presentation included four sections and PowerPoint slides that were, if I do say so myself, pretty great.  The categories were:  What Is Grief?; How Did We Get Where We Are (which was a historical overview about grief and the death of a child starting with the 15th Century and moving forward)?; The Grieving Brain (the latest information using functional MRIs to look into the brain of people who are grieving to see what is happening and what works to help them/us); and, What Can You Do to Help?

From there Wendell and I went on a vacation for 17 days and then flew directly to Florida where I presented two one-hour workshops for grieving parents. 

Being in Florida with all of those grieving parents at one time was enlightening and deeply meaningful. The BP of the USA did a great job putting the event together, and Wendell and I had  a wonderful time meeting so many beautiful parents from all over.

Needless to say, we were so relieved and happy to get home to our own bed, shower, garden, and way of life.  It's nice to get away (something I never thought I would be able to do again and actually enjoy myself, but I do; I was wrong), but there is no place like home.

Please tell us how you are all doing, what you are doing, and where you are at this point.

With much love always,
Erika's Mom, Susan Whitmore
Founder & President
Grief Specialist
6  Primary Message Board / Primary Board / Re: Today is July 10, 2012 on: July 10, 2012, 07:59:28 PM
Thanks for doing that!  We were wondering what is going on, since there aren't any posts for such along time.  I think people are vacationing or busy with summer?  Anyway, thanks for checking.

Where are you all?  We miss you!

Love,
Susan
7  Primary Message Board / Primary Board / Question From griefHaven Founder - Susan Whitmore on: May 26, 2012, 10:49:09 PM
Hi, Everyone.  I continue to read all of your posts, as do thousands of others around the world, and gain so much from each one of you.  YOU help me on MY journey, too.

I have a question for you and need your advice, input, and suggestions if you would please.

I am doing an all-day presentation on June 8 in Buffalo, New York for the Roswell Park Cancer Institute's yearly conference. In attendance will be clergy, hospice caregivers, medical students, thanatologists, nurses, and all sorts of other specialists.  Of course my topic is what is grief, how have we gotten to the place where we are today with all of the misunderstandings about grief and grief support, and what they can do to support grieving parents and siblings.

Would you please share with me any of your suggestions regarding experiences you have had with a religious leader who might have done or said something you found not helpful, anything you would suggest I impart to those in attendance as ways of being able to help you, etc.?

I really appreciate all of your input and will use all of it.  If you want to talk to me personally, please email me at:  swhitmore@griefHaven.org.

With lots of love,

Susan Whitmore, Erika's Mom


Founder & President
8  Primary Message Board / Primary Board / Adding Your Child's Photo to the griefHaven Facebook Page on: February 13, 2012, 08:41:18 PM
Hi, Everyone.

As Mike posted last week, you can now add photos of your wonderful, amazing child right on our Facebook page.  I posted one of Erika to get it started, and now I really want to see and meet and get to know you and all of your children.  It's a great way for everyone to meet them.  We want to make sure they are never, ever forgotten.  Here is how you do it.  Print these instructions out.  It sounds harder than it really is.  Believe me, if I can do it, anyone can!

Sending my love,
Susan

First, you'll need to have a Facebook account
Next go to http://www.facebook.com/griefHaven
In the middle of the page near the top you will see a box that says "write something"
just above that you will see "Share: Post-Photo-Link-Video"
*Click on Photo
*Click on upload photo
*Click on choose file
*Find the photo and double-click on it (it will start loading)
*Underneath where it says "Say something about this photo," write something
*Click on share

If anyone has any questions or problems, please feel free to contact me & I'll try & help.
9  Primary Message Board / Primary Board / Re: Posting A Photo Of Your Child On Facebook on: January 12, 2012, 01:59:22 AM
Hi, everyone. Well, I talked to our wonderful Mike Donovan, who handles our Facebook page, and he is putting together folders so that those who want to post photos of their children and write something can do so.  I will let you know when that happens.

Love and hugs,
Susan, Erika's Mom
10  Primary Message Board / Primary Board / Re: griefHaven Gets A New Facebook Page on: January 12, 2012, 01:58:13 AM
Shelly,

Thank you for your kind words.  I would love to review your documentary and help you in any way possible.  Of course, time is always an issue with me, as we continue to grow in leaps and bounds.  Why don't you write to me directly about this, and I will respond directly.  My personal email is swhitmore@griefHaven.org.  And I'd LOVE to meet you while you are in Los Angeles.  In fact, I heard there was a Compassionate Friends conference in Orange County in I think March, and we are only about 30 to 40 minutes from Orange County, but along the coast in Pacific Palisades, which is between Malibu and Santa Monica, CA.  I was thinking about putting together some kind of "meet and greet" while everyone is here for the CF conference so I could meet everyone and the rest of the griefHaven family could meet everyone.  Anyway, please write to me directly.

Love and hugs.
Susan
11  Primary Message Board / Primary Board / Re: griefHaven Gets A New Facebook Page on: January 03, 2012, 10:51:09 PM
Kim,

I have been so busy over these last few weeks that this is the first time I've had a few minutes to check our messages.  And here you are, saying such loving and beautiful things.  I tell you, it is comments like yours that keep me going.  You know, I had a hard year this year, and it's been number nine without Erika, as you know.  As I read your posting, I thought about when we first met.  Do you remember that?  I had just put up the website, and we had only about 100 people in out database, and you and I were in such intense, gut-wrenching sorrow and pain over Gretchen's and Erika's deaths.  So even though this latest round of holidays was sadder for me than usual, I am grateful to report to you and everyone reading this that it was also nothing close to those first few years. 

I was just telling Wendell tonight as we were out eating dinner that there is a sort of scale, right, that we measure our longing and missing of our children by.  My scale is 1 to 10, 10 being that first year where I simply wanted to die, I had nothing but pain in my life all of the time, and I couldn't see any way I would ever be truly happy again.  One would be those days I have now, where I have joy, where I still think about her (of course!) many times every day, but where I also look forward to getting up and appreciate so many things about my life now.  I know that scale is the opposite from the scientific scales, such as the one I used when doing my thesis.  For me, I like to see the lowest number as the one that represents the best of moments and the least amount of missing, and ten being the worst imaginable.  SO, with that said, my Christmas this year was about a 4 for a few days and pretty much a 3 the others.  Last year, however, it was really a 2 and 3 the entire time, the 3 only coming when I was surrounded by happy families with all of their healthy children calling them mom.  That would pretty much be my immediate family.

Please continue to keep in touch.  Every day, several times a day, as I am working away in my office, at my griefHaven desk, I see Gretchen's photo flashing through the home page and think of you with fondness and love.  I will always be your friend, and I hope to make so many more friends on this site in 2012.  Love and hugs, Erika's Mom, Susan
12  Primary Message Board / Primary Board / Posting A Photo Of Your Child On Facebook on: December 28, 2011, 05:02:45 PM
Hi, Everyone.  We are wanting to add some things to our Facebook page, but we want to keep it simple, unique, and special.  We don't want it cluttered with all kinds of stuff that is meaningless to most of us.  So we will start a series of questions to see what we can bring to you that will be special and meaningful for you.

This is the first of those questions, so please give us your opinion.

And if you have other ideas, let us know, PLEASE.  Write to us at hope@griefHaven.org.  Share articles, poems, things you want included in our newsletters, website or Facebook.  This is for YOU!
13  Primary Message Board / Primary Board / The New Year - A Year of Possibilities (A New Perspective?) on: December 28, 2011, 04:43:47 PM
Parents often tell us that the New Year signifies for them nothing more than another year they are starting without their child--that it is but a reminder that a whole new year is starting with 365 days in front of them without their child.

All of us who work with griefHaven and who have had our child die have seen many New Years come and go. In fact, one of us has seen 30 New Years come and go! And we all felt that same way for a very long time--that yet another 365 days loomed out in front of us without our child here to share in our lives. In talking this over, we realized that we had all reached the same place on our journey at some point, and that when we reached that point, it was a major turning point for each one of us. You see, at some point (and it was different for each one of us) we all decided that we wanted to change the way we viewed the upcoming years, for it was simply too painful to see those New Years every single year, year after year, for the rest of our lives as nothing more than a reference point of yet another 365 days without our child.  Ugh. 

Eventually what we have all done is start to see the next year as a year that also includes a lot of other positive possibilities that we have yet to experience, hope will come into fruition, etc. For instance, I as the founder and president of griefHaven began thinking of each new year as a whole bunch of new opportunities to imagine, create, and bring to fruition even more love, hope and support for grieving families. This was especially important to me because Erika is our only child. Another mother here looks at each new year as the year she will fall in love again, as she was recently divorced after her child’s death.  One of our couples sees each new year as an unbelievable experience of watching their other son grow into a man, starting college last year,  and now producing and acting in stage plays--something that was a big surprise to his mom and dad. And yet another father sees each new year as the year he gets to spend with his grandchildren who are getting older, and he is also excited about his own nonprofit that is helping bring greater funding to schools and teachers, hoping his new ideas will help it flourish even more.  And so it goes on like that.

We wouldn't for one second say you should deny the true feelings and thoughts you have about the new year. No way! We also still think about another year in front of us without our child, yet by adding this one element to that thought--that there is at least this one thing (maybe you have even more) you care about doing or changing, this one thing you want to start, or this one thing that is really meaningful to you, then the new year will also mark another 365 days of not just "dread," but also genuine "possibilities" and “hope.”

And THAT, our friends, is something to actually have in front of you to look forward to. Hey! If you get a chance, send us what some of those are for you, and we will post them on our Facebook page.  Be sure to check out our Facebook page regularly to see what we are up to and what might be coming your way.
Write to us at hope@griefHaven.org.
So without saying "happy," we'll just say:

May your new year be filled with possibilities that are meaningful to you.

We love you. We care about you. We are always here for you.

Your griefHaven Boards and Office.
14  Primary Message Board / Primary Board / griefHaven Gets A New Facebook Page on: December 07, 2011, 02:43:10 PM
Hi, Everyone.
-------------------------->   http://www.facebook.com/griefHaven <------------------------------------------

I have been reading all of your meaningful and loving postings.  They help me so much, too.

I wanted to let you know that we are now on Facebook, and we are posting things that we think you will find interesting, useful, amazing, and educational regularly.  So please keep up with what we are doing, what events are coming, what books we recommend, things we want you to know about, etc. by visiting our Facebook page regularly.

Do you want to post something on the griefHaven Facebook page?  Let us know, and we'll put it up for you.  We locked it from anyone else being able to post because, as hard as it is to believe, there are some very sad people out there who think it's funny or challenging to attack our sites and spam us, so we need to keep everything safe and secure.

I'm always thinking about all of you and wishing I could be in one room with you all at the same time. HEY!  Maybe that will happen in 2012 with our next two workshops.  We'll keep you posted through the newsletters (so be sure you are on our mailing list), Facebook, and in generalized emails from me.

Love and gentle hugs from sunny California.
Erika's Mom, Susan Whitmore
Founder & President


-------------------------->   http://www.facebook.com/griefHaven <------------------------------------------
15  Primary Message Board / Primary Board / Re: I Wonder on: October 25, 2011, 11:37:15 PM
I have heard it from parents across the globe that "they" know the look of another grieving parent.  In fact, right after Erika died, there was a woman I wanted to talk to in my town because I had heard that she lost her son six years earlier, and I wanted to talk to someone who understood my pain.  A friend was working to put us together.  Then, one day, I walked into the hair salon, and she happened to be there, but I didn't know it.  She had never met or seen me, and I had never met or seen her.  She immediately turned to the owner of the salon and said, "Is that Susan Whitmore?  Did she just lose her daughter?"  And the owner said, "Yes."  She immediately got up and came over to me and we talked.  I asked her how she knew, and she said, "I just know that look, and you had it."

It is one of those things we think a lot about soon after our child dies, especially as we go through life.  I can remember walking along the street and wondering, "Has that person lost a child?  What about that person?"  Or when I would be driving in my car, I would look over at someone laughing and think, "Did she lose a child and is now happy again?"  It is uncanny for a long time how life can really go on when our child has died.

Sending you lots of love.
Susan, Erika's Mom
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